Last night We Are Indie Horror decided to have a double feature short film night to get in the SXSW mood. We had a repeat viewing of the incredible and beautiful one shot horror short Night Of The Slasher. Following was a film none of us have seen and it certainly complimented the art piece above very well. The Smiling Man in it’s own right is a beautiful piece of cinematic art that belongs on the top of the lists with the best of them.
Director AJ Briones delivers a freighting story in The Smiling Man whose official synopsis reads:
A little girl home alone finds herself face-to-face with pure evil.
Simple enough right? Wrong! The short film is anything but simple and for a synopsis that is all the audience needs to know. There are so many incredible aspects of this short it is difficult to find a place to start. Easiest would be casting. The short stars Abby Chally as the little girl, Strange Dave as the Smiling Man, and Melissa Chally as the mother. From top to bottom the performances were beyond spectacular. The little girl was a true professional in eliciting the exact reactions needed at the right moments and the small but significant part of the mother was played with conviction you forget they are acting. The true stand out performance was Strange Dave playing the Smiling Man. From the moment one small body part is shown on screen, something eerie becomes present. With no spoilers the Smiling Man is on screen for a prevalent amount of time. The chilling and believable performance would make any viewer afraid to meet Strange Dave in person. The monster get’s screen time and he sure as hell deserves it. Sometimes shorts do not go that far, but AJ Briones‘ The Smiling Man allows the audience to have a one on one and very personal encounter with the monster allowing for some of the scariest and most intense moments in a short film.
Besides the incredible acting, The Smiling Man performs exceptionally well on all other fronts. Not only did AJ Briones direct and write the short, he also should be commended for the phenomenal editing job. Creating tension out of the simplest object, such as a a balloon, is a talent that should not go unnoticed. The whole short had us on the edge of our seat and part of that is due to the spectacular editing job. A great help to any editor is the camera and David Holechek delivers. When each and every shot can be made a painting, the eye candy is prevalent. Especially when the audience finally meets the The Smiling Man, there are some shots that have subtle elements hidden creating some of the most beautiful work We Are Indie Horror has seen in a short film. Briones directing allows for such subtleties to occur not only within the frame but within the performances and even within the score.
The score created by Vivien Villani is a beautiful and haunting orchestral masterpiece creating the perfect mood for The Smiling Man. To discover that the score was made by one person, blows our minds. Any audience member would have a hard time noticing, which is a true compliment to Villani. Back to the subtle elements, he utilizes a few moments of pure silence and layers it with a violin sting or allows the silence to play itself. One particular moment was in the beginning when the little girl is heading down the stairs there is a lingering violin that hits the spine and sends shivers until the audience is brought right back into the suspense.
The Smiling Man is a piece of amazing horror art that will end as a timeless classic and will outshine any modern horror feature length film. The incredible performances, camera work, direction and music create a near perfect short film worthy of all and any awards. With over 49 festival showings, The Smiling Man continues to tear up the indie horror scene and the moment this film becomes available to the public, We Are Indie Horror will share it. If you happen to find yourself in Texas for SXSW, be sure not to miss this scary short film. Follow all the links below for more information and updates on the short.